Amnesty International Strongly Condemns “Calculated” Attacks on U.S. Consulate in Benghazi

Press Release

Amnesty International Strongly Condemns “Calculated” Attacks on U.S. Consulate in Benghazi

Killings of Four People in Response to Anti-Islam Film “Cast a Shadow on Libya’s Future,” Says Human Rights Group

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) -- Amnesty International condemns the killing of at least four people, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stephens, and the injury of several others by armed men through a series of attacks on the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi.

"We condemn this calculated attack targeting U.S. personnel as they attempted to flee to safety. No one can justify a brutal attack of this nature. Those responsible must be brought to justice,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

According to information gathered by Amnesty International, attacks against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in eastern Libyan began in the evening of September 12 and lasted around two hours.

Attackers, who are believed to have used RPGs and anti-aircraft weapons, continued to target consulate staff as they attempted to flee and make their way to their living quarters. The attacks resulted in the deaths of at least four people, including the U.S. ambassador who was on a visit to Benghazi at the time. Police and other security officers were reportedly overwhelmed and fled the scene.

The Libyan ministry of interior has publically said the attacks are linked to protests that broke out after clips from a film made by a U.S.-based anti-Islam propagandist were translated into Arabic and posted on the Internet. The clips depict the prophet Muhammad and other figures revered by Muslims in an insulting manner, and have deeply offended many Muslims.

“However offensive this film may be, it in no way excuses killings and violent attacks,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “While religion and culture are of central importance to many people’s lives, they cannot justify abusing the human rights of others.”

These targeted and deliberate attacks are unique against a wide pattern of lawlessness and mob violence that define violence in Benghazi, and further exemplify the need for Libyan authorities to rein in armed groups, militias and others who act above the law.

In a recent statement, the General National Congress (GNC) expressed its commitment to criminalize and punish acts of unlawful killings, torture and general lawlessness. However, a year after Tripoli fell to revolutionary fighters, armed groups have continued to commit human rights violations, including unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and forcible displacement. Perpetrators of such acts continue to go unpunished.

States must protect the lives and safety of all people within their jurisdiction by adhering strictly to international human rights law and standards. They must respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and implement proportionate law enforcement measures to maintain public order.

“These calculated attacks and continuing human rights violations by armed groups, as well as the state’s failure to protect civilians and enforce national and international law, cast a shadow on Libya’s future,” said Sahraoui. “There is a real risk that the very abuses that inspired the ‘February 17 Revolution’ are being reproduced and entrenched.”

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.